Deputy team principal Claire Williams has made it quite clear that Jenson Button is the strongest contender for Massa’s seat at Williams in 2017.
Button is out of contract at McLaren at the end of this season, as are the two current Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Williams are said to be pushing to keep Bottas on at Williams for a 5th year and given that the Finn isn’t likely to cause a driver line-up switch in the top three teams, he might be wise to stay with the Grove-based outfit.
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) July 31, 2016
The 2009 World Champion raced for Williams in 2000 and to rejoin the team would be a decent opportunity to book-end his long career in Formula One. Claire Williams said,
“It would be lovely [to have Button back at Williams]. The story is great.
There are some great talents out there and Jenson is very attractive commercially as well. He is also an extremely intelligent driver from a variety of different angles so of course he is going to be up there for consideration.
When I went to Silverstone and I was on the big stage, Tony Jardine who was the MC said to the crowd: ‘Tell Claire how much you’d like to see Jenson back in a Williams’. The whole place erupted. It was extraordinary.
We are still evaluating our options. You want to make sure you evaluate every area that you put weight on when you are choosing a driver, not just what they do on a Sunday afternoon but it’s everything they bring to a team.”
– Claire Williams
Great news for Button, but disheartening for Felipe Massa, who is still employed by the team to go racing and show full commitment. There is the possibility that the Brazilian has already announced to the team behind closed doors that he’s retiring or racing elsewhere next season, giving the green light to negotiation and this sort of public endorsement from the team.
If the last time a technical regulation overhaul was implemented is anything to go by, there is no reason to believe that Williams won’t be strong next year. Technical director at Williams Pat Symonds seems to believe that in Jenson Button, the team will gain a driver that can propel the team forwards.
“Jenson would fit into the team well and we would serve him well. But I have no idea what Jenson’s salary is and that is an important part of the equation.”
– Pat Symonds
Surprisingly, Button finished 8th overall for Williams in 2000, and hasn’t finished that highly in the driver standings since 5th overall in 2012 with McLaren. That spells four barren years at McLaren since. Surely he misses the podium and wants to fight for trophies next year?